As the saying goes, the trend is your friend. Well…maybe not all the time. The growing popularity of remote work, open plan office space, and casual dress have begotten quite a paradigm shift in American business culture. For some of the more formal minded workers, this begs some perplexing questions. Has modern cultured ushered in the office free-for-all? Are the days of civilized work environments gone forever? This article cites three reasons that these hot new office space trends may not be where your employees work best and why a formal work environment is worthy of consideration even for companies who want to stay up with the trends.
#1 Reason Not to Kick Privacy Out the Door Just Yet
Discretion is still critical for many industries, especially the ones hyper-sensitive to client confidentiality issues such as fintech, law, and healthcare. Even a small misappropriation of the tiniest client detail is a dangerous problem for a business to have. The consequences? Anything from annoyed or lost customers to fines, fees, loss of licensing, and lawsuits.
Let’s say you’re a tax attorney who helps people who get themselves into trouble with the IRS. How can you really work from an office space with glass walls? There the risk of someone viewing what’s on your computer screen. Also, your clients also may just resent you a little bit for holding the meeting in a place that is ostensibly as public as Starbucks. In these cases, all office staff and even the other shared office space community members are a possible source of leakage. You never know what someone will hear or see when you opt for total transparency.
More formal offices are designed with soundproof walls to avoid conversations being heard by anyone whose ears they aren’t meant for. Some even have onsite staff to perform construction whenever needed.
#2 Rethinking Collaboration
Despite the mantra that modern day office designers have promoted, collaboration does not reward top performers all the time. In some instances, the harder workers are forced to compensate and pick up the slack. As per an article in Inc. magazine, open plan offices that encourage cooperation can actually compromise the performance of the top tier.
Before you decide to opt for a collaborate workspace, rethink the advantages of a formal workspace that encourages separation. For many companies, privacy improves concentration and productivity. As long as meeting rooms are readily available for times when worksharing is required, there is no communication problem.
Rethink how well the blending of employee personalities is really going to go at your firm. Formal office cultures make boundary lines very clear. Crossing them develops awkward social situations that can lead to HR issues and employee discord.
#3: Elegant Image vs. Chaotic Image
The physical space where your company lives is one of the most important carriers of its brand. While each company has its own unique personality, elegance is a trait that never goes out of style. And in the increasingly chaotic world of modern office design, it’s become rarer by the minute…
According to an article by Entrepreneur magazine (see link), office space works best when it matches both the style of the business and its target clientele. If you are supporting local customers, does the community match the profile of the ideal person you’d want to do business with? For example, being located in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn is great for tech startups, but a tax lawyer may prefer a location in downtown Manhattan closer to the courts.
Employees play an important role in conveying the brand. The way you set your office up can encourage your workers to view themselves as serious, mature, and of a high quality – and they will in turn reflect this culture to the rest of the world at every touch point. Reputation goes much further than is realized and once you establish the wrong impression with someone it takes triple the amount of effort to remediate it.
Give me your opinion in the comments below. Is a formal office a relic of the past, or are there some merits to bypassing the cool kid table as your workspace?